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Excluded for Being Mentally Ill

TW: Non-graphic mentions of Self-Harm and Suicidal Ideation.

The end of school isn’t a time I like to think about. I remember the good bits and have spent the last 14 years trying to ignore the rest but as is the way with these things, when you try to bury them, they often resurface when you least expect it. Today, I was reading this post by mental health charity, Mind, about the Hubs they want to have created to give young people a place to go to get quick and easy access to mental health support before they deteriorate on waiting lists. The descriptions they gave of children and how they’re being treated brought everything flooding back to me because despite so much progress apparently being made in society in the last 14 years, how schools, doctors surgeries and mental health services are treating young people hasn’t changed a bit. So I’m going to go back and explain what happened to me because it’s something I’ve never felt able to talk about on here, or really in real life either. I’ve told people bits and pieces or slipped sections into conversation but I’ve never really gone into detail because it was too painful and most of all, I was embarrassed and ashamed, something I should never have felt and something I hope to one day be able to move past.

I became ill with depression just before my 16th birthday. Things were bad at home, my parents weren’t getting on and I dealt with it very badly. 18 months later they were separated and 18 months after that, divorced. The month before my 16th birthday I seemed to just lose my ability to cope. Rather than taking things in my stride or believing I could cope and things would get better, I started having darker and more bleak thoughts and felt sad all the time. I spoke to a trusted teacher at school and she said to try and be nice to myself, to relax and to try and have a nice Christmas. I don’t remember much of that Christmas but I know it wasn’t good and things were at a real low in my family. By January I felt worse and wondered if I might have depression. I knew nothing about it but had heard it on TV and given that I felt sad all the time, it seemed like that might be what was wrong so I eventually asked my mum to take me to the doctors. It was a total waste of time. The doctor was really dismissive and said it was the time of year, that it was January Blues and “Every teenager in the country feels like this at the moment”. It’ll pass. I said to her that if that was the case there were going to be a lot of dead teenagers but she sent me home with no diagnosis, no help and no treatment.

By February, I was coping much worse and for the first time in my life I started self-harming. I vividly remember the date and the circumstances that led to that, even 14 years on. I’m absolutely terrified of pain, verging on phobic about it. I avoid pain at all costs, am phobic of needles and completely freak out at the idea that something will hurt. And yet, here I was self-harming. At first it was maybe once or twice a week, it certainly didn’t stay that way. 6 weeks after my first appointment, I asked to go to the doctors again, I was now regularly self-harming and seriously contemplating suicide and wishing I was dead. She immediately referred me to CAMHS (Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services). A few weeks later I was assessed by CAMHS and within 10 minutes I was diagnosed with depression and put on anti-depressants. No therapy, no talking about the root cause, no explanation to me or my next of kin about the effects these meds could have on me whilst taking them or if I stopped suddenly, just a prescription for some pills. Soon after this I started restricting my food intake.

The whole of this chunk of my life is hazy at best. There are milestone moments that I remember but the day-to-day and the exact order everything happened is really hazy because I was so unwell at the time. I became hugely sleep deprived and was sleeping under 4 hours a night. I’ve always had major sleep problems but this was in another league. By February or March I was seeing the school counsellor and while she was lovely, it was fraught with problems. I got kind of obsessed with her and completely reliant on the one adult that was actually listening to me and taking me seriously. She didn’t know me very well and didn’t really seem equipped to deal with someone as severely ill as I was becoming and quite honestly, I think she was out of her depth but she was all I had. She made various promises about what would and wouldn’t be kept between us and so I knew where the boundaries were. Unfortunately, and again, my memory of this event is really not clear, at some point she agreed not to tell my parents something, possibly about the extent of my self-harm, I don’t actually know, but then went back on her word and didn’t tell me so the first I knew of it was my mum appearing in a school corridor after she’d been called in. It turns out, despite being a pretty composed and collected person, I don’t react at all well to being cornered or surprised. I refused to go home and ran off to go and find my trusted teacher who helped calm me down. I don’t remember what happened after that but I never trusted or confided in the counsellor again.

As I deteriorated further, my sleep remained bad, self-harm increased and I was losing weight. My nurse at CAMHS was an eating disorder specialist nurse who seemed like she’d never met a person with an eating disorder in her life. Every week I’d be asked how I was doing, every week I’d tell her I was worse because my life was starting to spiral out of control. I know that must sound like typical teenage angst but it genuinely wasn’t and things were worsening at home and my depression and symptoms surrounding that were worsening too. I was also months away from leaving school and having to go through huge changes which I also don’t cope well with. Every week she’d tell me “Well you’re looking better”. I’d be weighed each week and she’d make unhelpful comments if I’d stayed the same or gained weight which just spurred me on to reduce my calorie intake further. At no point did they give me any techniques to be more resilient or to learn to take things in my stride again and I was mostly just told to hold ice or ping rubber bands so that I stopped self-harming and to focus on the future when I could move out (a likely 3 or 4 years in the future). Suffice to say, none of that helped.

In May, my Grandad was hospitalised and died a few weeks later. My anti-depressants weren’t helping and just made me feel numb and I knew it was bad if people didn’t process death and this was the first death I was exposed to so I came off the meds. My family were furious and my nurse and doctor at CAMHS were equally unimpressed. I was told off which felt really unfair given that I’d done it for the best reasons. Again, I don’t remember the circumstances fully but I had an appointment with CAMHS and my trusted teacher offered to attend with me as it was just round the corner from my school. She came but the appointment went very badly and I ended up in floods of tears with her outside on the pavement refusing to go back to school because I felt so helpless. Unbeknownst to me, this triggered her to need to leave school for the day. That night I slept for 2.5 hours. I woke up at 5.30am and just couldn’t be in the house anymore and decided I was going to go out. I wrote a note to my family explaining that I’d gone out and taken my school stuff and would attend school on time but I just couldn’t be in the house. I walked to the beach and sat there watching the sunrise. My mum kept calling me and I didn’t answer. I didn’t want to talk to her knowing I’d be told off. I knew it was dangerous to go out in the dark at 16 years old but I just couldn’t stay in the house. Eventually something in me told me I had to answer the phone and mum asked where I was. I said I wouldn’t tell her but that I was safe and was going to go to school. She was very insistent that I had to tell her where I was. I eventually did and before I knew it she pulled up in the car and made me get in. It was there that she explained I had been excluded from school. I didn’t believe her and thought she was just trying to scare me or punish me for “running away”. I hadn’t done anything wrong and school couldn’t know yet that I’d run away so I couldn’t possibly be excluded but she explained she’d had a phonecall from the school the previous day and because I’d upset the teacher, they couldn’t have me in school while I was “behaving like this”. My world fell apart. I had exams coming up, my leavers’ service and my school prom and I was told that I could do my exams in isolation and I wouldn’t be allowed to attend anything else, no last lessons, no leavers service, no prom. They weren’t even going to let me say goodbye to my friends. Thankfully, one of my exams was a 5 hour textiles exam which had to be done in school and they eventually agreed that if I “behaved” in that, that they’d consider letting me attend my leavers events. Being someone who was good as gold throughout school and never once got sent out of class or given detention, that wasn’t difficult and after a week of exclusion they agreed to allow me back in class and to my leavers events as long as I “promised to behave”, whatever that meant. I still don’t actually understand what rules I broke or what I was specifically excluded for other than accidentally upsetting a teacher who was probably inadvertently triggered because my experience was a bit too close to home. I attended all of my leavers’ events and lessons without incident.

At college, it had been handed over that I had mental health problems and I had to have a meeting with someone before attending. The ‘rules’ were spelled out about not being allowed to self-harm on the premises and that I’d potentially be expelled if I did. For the avoidance of any doubt, I’ve never self-harmed anywhere other than at home and I’ve never carried dangerous objects or showed anyone my injuries unless made to and my injuries never required medical treatment or intervention of any kind. It was such a humiliating experience. I completely understand that of course it would be completely inappropriate to self-harm on school, college or workplace property which is why I’ve never done it but it’s so embarrassing having that spelled out in detail to you and you being talked to like you’re some kind of deviant or criminal. Self-harm for me was always a coping strategy and a means of survival. It’s why I don’t feel ashamed of my scars and why I no longer deliberately cover them up because I’m sure I’d be dead if I didn’t have them and hadn’t got through in that way. I’m never going to apologise for that because to apologise for self-harming would be to apologise for being alive and doing what it took to survive those times.

I managed to hold it together for a few months at college but I felt like I was falling apart. My eating disorder worsened and I was very close to being diagnosed with Anorexia. I’m not sure if I ever did get an official diagnosis or not but I was told I had Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, Anorexia Type because I was slightly over the weight at which I’d be classed as Anorexic. I was cold all the time, I felt faint a lot and just completely miserable and overwhelmed. I had been put on a different anti-depressant just after my 17th birthday which made me dangerously suicidal (again with no prior warning of this possibility given to me or my next of kin) and so I took myself off that after 4 weeks. Again, I was told off for this but I absolutely maintain that I’d be dead if I’d remained on it because the suicidal thoughts and feelings were so intense. I was put on a third a couple of months later which made me sick which really didn’t help my eating disorder, I was taken off that one after just a few weeks.

Thankfully, my dad had private medical insurance with his work that covered the whole family and my GP at the time (a different one from the previous year) suggested going private. I spent a couple of months having check-ups whilst I deteriorated and in that May (2018) I said I couldn’t keep myself safe and didn’t want to and that if they left me at home, I wouldn’t be alive to see the next appointment. Within days I was admitted to a private psychiatric hospital for what was initially meant to be 4 weeks and turned into 9 weeks and I was only discharged then because the private medical insurance funding ran out. My parents separated while I was in hospital and I was discharged to my new house having visited it once. I stayed in outpatient therapy for months after that.

My physical health deteriorated, probably because of the sheer strain of the mental illness I’d been suffering from relentlessly for 18+ months and my attendance at college dropped hugely as I became functionally nocturnal because my insomnia got so bad. College threatened to take me off my courses when my attendance dropped below 50% despite it being entirely because of illness. I fought and fought to be kept on so that I didn’t have to do another year and finally managed to get them to agree but it was very begrudging on their part. Yet again, I was treated like I was skiving and not bothering to turn up, rather than so ill and so sleep-deprived that I was asleep at home during lesson times because it was the only time my brain would shut off enough. I eventually managed to drag myself through my A Levels and after some retakes I managed to get the grades I needed to go to University the following year.

Throughout these experiences it didn’t feel like I was treated fairly. I wasn’t naughty or disobedient, I wasn’t acting up or misbehaving. I was ill. I had a challenging homelife, I’d been physically ill from the age of 9 with ME/CFS which led to lots of disruption and an abnormal childhood and I’d been bullied a lot and after it all caught up with me, I was then treated like I was bad. I understand that it must be really hard for schools to know how to handle children like me, they’re experts in teaching but they’re rarely trained in mental health but what worries me most is that in 14 years it seems that almost nothing has changed and so many mentally ill children are still being treated like they’re naughty and punished and penalised for symptoms and behaviours that they simply aren’t in control of or to blame for. It has to change. We have to believe children, to take them seriously and intervene quickly and robustly. We need to give them understanding, teach them coping techniques and not punish them for symptoms of mental illness that they can’t help. I was a model student with an exemplary record throughout my time at school and it’s beyond embarrassing to remember that I was excluded because I was so ill. We must do better.

Seven Years On – Seven Years Of Changing and Staying the Same

It’s that time of year again where we hit the anniversary of me being signed off sick from work. I swear it comes around quicker every year. As ever, I don’t really know what to talk about but having noted this day in written-form for the last 6 years, it seems a shame to quit now so I’m probably going to do what I’ve done almost every previous year and ramble until I come to a close.

Yesterday, I thought I’d read through all of my previous posts written on this date each year to see how things have changed or stayed the same, to see how my writing style has evolved and to see if it would inspire a specific thing to write about. It was a strange experience. My sense of things is often at odds with how they actually are and this is most notable in my sense of my writing. Often, when I write a post, I think it’s truly dreadful and mostly a rambling mess. I take a big breath in and start reading through ready to attempt to heftily edit whatever meandering thought soup has been typed out. Almost every time, I’ll barely edit it at all because when I read it back, it actually says what I want to say in a surprisingly coherent, cohesive and interestingly written way. But it never feels like that when I’ve written it and I’ve never been able to work out why. It’s exactly the same with my vlogs. I suffer from dissociation symptoms and usually only get 2 lines into my vlogs which I start knowing a theme and a couple of examples and little to nothing else in terms of a plan, and then I dissociate and have little to no recollection of what I’ve said. It means I have to go back and watch every video before posting it to check I’ve not sworn or said anything I’m not allowed to and haven’t gone too personal or dark or overboard about whatever the topic is. As yet, there’s never been a video that I’ve had to edit, re-record or not post. But still, every time I feel I have to check because my brain tells me that these things are not things I’m good at, that I’m not a coherent writer, that I’m extremely negative and that I’ll say all sorts of things I’m not aware of or won’t make sense. This has never been the case but somehow that doesn’t change my viewpoint.

When I read back all of my previous anniversary posts, I expected the first few to be ropey and written in a completely different style from how I write now. It’s not something I’ve worked to improve upon, I just assumed that with practice and time and ageing that my style would have adapted or changed and possibly improved. As far as I could tell, it’s not changed one bit. I still punctuate in the same way, I still love sentences that are far too long and I still list almost everything in groups of three because it makes my brain happy to write like that. As for the content, again, I fully expected that to really change because I know my conditions have over time but again, it was surprisingly samey. Not in a boring way, but in a, this feels like it changes but sounds remarkably similar year on year sort of way. I’ve mentioned before that my anxiety attaches to different sources and these change a little over time so I can get more or less anxious about being observed doing things or my health at different points through my time of being ill. But the severity of the anxiety, the magnitude of it seems to stay quite constant and while it does improve and deteriorate, this is just the pattern it takes, like the changing of the tides really, there are high tides and low tides but one always follows the other and they don’t get more or less over time, they’re just high and low and high and low. The most common themes I noticed though are that despite it feeling like it changes, my confidence levels are mostly very low and my ability to sleep properly is almost always something I struggle with. I’ve used the phrase before that these things are sadly bad and worse and nothing outside that. It sounds super negative but there’s honestly no other way of describing it because I don’t ever seem to have periods of good sleep where I’m consistently sleeping 8 hours a night straight through and waking up in the morning not feeling like death, or periods where I suddenly feel confident or develop self-belief. I seem to wade through life constantly battling those things, always trying to sort out my sleep and always trying to force myself to do things that everyone tells me I’m capable of and that I’ve previously shown myself to be capable of and still permanently feeling like I’m not and that I’ll spectacularly fail. Those things are mostly a constant for me. I guess it’s why I find it hard to know what to write about because often, the only change is the passing of time or what’s happening in my personal life, my inner life doesn’t really change all that much and so I tend to run out of words or ideas for a new spin on the same very old idea that it’s absolutely no fun at all to be ill with anxiety disorders.

One thing I have noticed is that despite the past year being exceptionally challenging for me due to personal circumstances and events (more info on this can be found here), in some ways my anxiety has felt more stable at points too. It certainly hasn’t been stable at the points where my world was turned upside down with benefits decisions and diagnoses and deaths of family members, but the bits in between have seemed like they’ve been a bit more stable. I think this might be because expectations on me have been lower than ever before thanks to the pandemic. It’s no longer expected for me to go out, to socialise, to be able to go shopping or to parties. For months at a time, we’ve been required to stay indoors, stay solitary, and keep ourselves safe. In some ways this has given me the space to just be and to not be constantly reminded of all of the things I can’t do but I do wonder how this experience might change as the world opens up again and those things all become encouraged once more. I’m also fully aware that my view on all of this, as ever, is hugely skewed by how I’m feeling while I’m writing this because for the last couple of days my anxiety has levelled off after a week of it being off the scale and so the relief that brings is all-encompassing and often blinkers my view of how good or bad things have previously been. I’m not very good at gauging that kind of thing. Just like my writing and my videoing, if I’m feeling good right now then things have been pretty good and I forget the intensity of the badness that I’m not feeling currently but if things are bad then I often also forget the intensity of the good periods too. It’s part of why I always intended (though never achieved) to blog regularly because I very much write in the moment and once that moment passes, my thoughts and feelings and take on the world shifts a bit. It’s why I usually have to create content all in one go because if I lose my flow, if I go back to it on another day then I’m almost never in exactly the same headspace as before and I lose all of the potency of the point I was making because it’s no longer quite as relevant to me.

I’m not sure that any of this sums up where I’m at right now because to be honest, I’m not really sure that I know. My Grandad died 10 days ago and that’s been a lot to take in and get used to on top of the anniversary of the UK going into lockdown, the illness and death of my Mother-in-Law, so much political turmoil about so many different things and spending almost a year fighting to be awarded disability benefits. I’ve spent a lot of the last year feeling like I was drowning and gasping for air. I spent more time than I care to remember genuinely wishing I was dead for the first time in a long time because things had got so bleak. I tend to look at the past, inadvertently, with rose-tinted glasses. I know the facts of how suicidal I was at points but because I don’t feel like that right now, I don’t feel that it was that bad but at the time I do still remember having to get myself through the day in parts because I just wasn’t coping. I know I’ve suffered from increased isolation and loneliness but also increased connection and communication and that’s been quite confusing. This year has been the year I’ve been least productive out of all of the years I’ve been ill for and I’ve found that so hard. I hate just existing and not having anything to show for my time and feeling like I’m just wasting time, life, waiting and wishing away the days until I feel better. I tend to avoid writing about the future because I know all too well how little control I actually have over that and so often I think that a little plan or a little aim will so obviously be doable that I’ll set it in stone here but I now know that’s not how it works and life twists and turns and often your plans and aims don’t keep up with you. Of course, I wish that by year 8’s post I’ll be telling you that I’m recovered and all of the wonderful things that would come with that but the realist in me tells me that’s quite unlikely. I’m just hoping more positive things will have happened this coming year, that I’ll keep the connection and communication I’ve built with people around me, that there will be less illness and death to contend with and that I’ll find my passion for something again and be able to get my teeth into a project, it’s been such a long time since I did that and it really is time.

If you want to go back and read all of my previous anniversary posts, they can be found below:

One Year On – One Year of Fear

Two Years On – Two Years of Trying

3 Years On, 3 Years of Managing

Four Years On, Four Years of Frustration

Five Years On – Five Years Of…..

6 Years’ Agoraphobic – Coping with Social Distancing, Self-Isolation and Being Housebound: Advice for COVID-19, Anxiety and Beyond

Update – Relatives, Death, Lockdown and More (21/03/21) – Video Post

Finally an update explaining where I’ve been and why I’ve not been posting for such a long time.

Johanna Basford 2021 Weekly Colouring Planner – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.

Johanna Basford 2021 Weekly Colouring Planner is published and was very kindly sent to me to review by Andrews McMeel Publishing. This planner is the perfect combination of organisation and colouring with space to write plans, appointments and notes, whilst also having weeks and weeks of colouring for you to do too. This planner is paperback with flexible pale cream card covers which have a beautiful black line-drawn flower, leaf and butterfly design on the front and back with it printed in reverse, white on black, on the inside covers, the front cover has gold foiling accents and the front and back cover have removable pale blue card strips with the information about the planner and the barcode etc printed on them. The planner is spiral-bound and measures 21.6 x 19.6cm, the covers aren’t especially sturdy so I’d be careful about travelling with it much and you’ll want to keep it safe somewhere rather than stuffing it in a bag or it’ll get damaged very quickly. This isn’t the best planner I’ve seen in terms of features and organisation, but for the combination of colouring and organising, it’s perfect and strikes a really good balance.

This planner runs for 12 months, from 28th of December 2020 to the 2nd of January 2022. The planner is printed double-sided and starts with a one-page overview of the year 2021 and then the planner itself starts with an image on the left of each double-page spread from one of Johanna’s eight books, images from all eight (Secret Garden, Enchanted Forest, Lost Ocean, Magical Jungle, Johanna’s Christmas, Ivy and the Inky Butterfly, World of Flowers, and How to Draw Inky Wonderlands) are included, and the week’s days and dates with writing space for each on the right (this is in the same style as normal planners with added leafy accents and leafy lettering for the month title at the top). Each week runs from Monday to Sunday with equal space to write for each day, the dates are on the right and important festivals and bank holidays etc are written in small text on the left of the page, as well as the country it’s celebrated in. After the planner pages, which make up the vast majority of the book, there is a double-page spread with sections for each month of 2022 for you to add your advance plans to. Following this is a full page of 2020 dates and a full page of 2022 dates, followed by 5 lined pages where you can write notes (all with added leaf accents) and the final page is a colouring test page where you can test out your mediums to check for bleed through.

The paper is pale cream rather than bright white (it is the same paper as last time and it’s less yellow than the Secret Garden book paper and more cream than the ivory paper in World of Flowers; see photo below of the different paper colours), lightly textured and medium thickness, sadly it does shadow a fair bit with water-based pens but it doesn’t bleed through; I’d strongly advise writing in pencil throughout or you’ll ruin the image on the reverse either with shadowing or indentation from ballpoint pens. Pencils work well on this paper so I’d suggest mostly colouring with pencils and using water-based pens if you don’t mind the shadowing showing through on the planner pages. A great selection of images from Johanna’s books are included with some being sections of original images at the original size and others being the whole page shrunk down to fit on the planner page so some of the illustrations are quite tricky to colour neatly but almost none look impossible as long as you use a good set of fineliners or sharp pencils. Because this is the fifth planner and the publisher has tried not to duplicate images it means that a number of my favourite images from her first few colouring books haven’t been included as they were in the first few planners, however, we’ve got new images from those as well as from the newest book, How to Draw Inky Wonderlands, and there are some lovely inclusions so there’s no disappointment to be had with this planner and it really is a great mix between organisation and colouring (two of my favourite things)!

In terms of mental health, this colouring planner is ideal. It gives you a manageable goal of colouring one page per week which could either be next week’s page so that it’s coloured ready for that week or this week’s page so you can colour as you plan. You could even colour it ahead for the whole year. The pages are a great size to practice colour schemes for your copy of the actual books, or even to try out colouring mediums on a smaller page. The spiral-binding makes it easy to access the whole page and none of the images go into the spine, it’s also ideal because once you’ve finished using the planner at the end of 2021, the pages are easy to remove for framing or gifting if you want to get more use out of your works of art. There isn’t a treasure hunt element in this planner and there are no written hints for drawing though there are plenty of spaces on a number of images to be able to add your own details or backgrounds to really make the pages your own but this of course isn’t necessary and it’ll look finished without the need to draw at all. This planner is perfect for fans of Johanna’s work and it is a beautiful way of using her illustrations. The line thickness varies a little throughout from thin to spindly thin and the intricacy and detail levels are higher than in the books because many of the images are shrunk down to fit the pages so you will most definitely need very good vision and fine motor control to get the most out of this planner if you’re wanting to colour it; you could of course leave it blank and just admire the illustrations because they really are beautiful to just look at with no need to add colour if that’s too challenging. The images aren’t arranged into any order but a few have been cleverly chosen to fit celebrations like a heart for the week of Valentine’s Day and images from Johanna’s Christmas through December. There is no skull for Halloween this year. The page size is much more manageable and less daunting to colour and this is ideal for those of you with fluctuating conditions or concentration levels because these pages are quicker to finish and likely to cause less frustration.

I would highly recommend this colouring planner to fans of Johanna’s work and to those who love to be organised. It’s a great combination of planner and colouring pages and the size and format is ideal for those who find the full-size book pages too daunting. It’s great for practising colour schemes or using new colouring mediums and it’ll be a lovely keepsake to work through from beginning to end and see how you’ve progressed over the year it runs for; you can even remove the images afterwards and frame or gift them.

If you’d like to purchase a copy it’s available below:
Amazon UK – Johanna Basford 2021 Weekly Coloring Planner

Video Flick-Through and Review

The image below was coloured with Stabilo Point 88 Fineliners.

Inky Wonderlands 2021 Colouring Wall Calendar – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.

Inky Wonderlands 2021 Colouring Wall Calendar is published and was very kindly sent to me to review by Andrews McMeel Publishing. This calendar is beautiful and is the same format as the previous JB wall calendars. The calendar itself is the same size as most others at 12 inches square, making it significantly larger than Johanna’s books. It includes 13 of Johanna’s drawings and this time, rather than being from one book, they’re from every title she’s produced so far. This calendar doesn’t include any new images. There is one illustration for each month of the year and one at the beginning for a 4-month overview of September to December 2020. I have included pictures of all of the calendar pages below so that you can decide if this is for you, as well as comparison photos of the book and calendar size.

The whole calendar, including the covers, is made of thick pale cream paper which is good quality (it is less yellow than the Secret Garden book paper and more cream than the new ivory paper in World of Flowers; see photo below of the different paper colours) – I thought it was going to bleed with water-based pens and watercolours but there was no bleed-through at all and only some shadowing when using my darker fineliners (in previous calendars) and no bleed-through or shadowing with Derwent Inktense pencils activated with water. Do bear in mind, when writing on the calendar I’d strongly advise using pencil so that you don’t get bleed through onto the next month’s image, or indentation from using a biro. The images are printed much larger in the calendar than in the books so this is a great purchase for those of you who find Johanna’s books just a little too detailed and small. You definitely can’t use alcohol markers because the images are all printed double-sided with the dates for the previous month on the back of the page which will get ruined by bleed-through if you colour ahead but would be fine if you colour month by month. The paper is quite smooth but has a little tooth and I didn’t have any issues with getting a few layers built up with my Caran d’Ache Luminance pencils in a previous edition. The butterfly image below was coloured with Stabilo Fineliners and Fibre-tip pens which didn’t bleed or shadow. The real-time colour along video can be found linked below.

The calendar is spiral-bound so you can easily fold it back on itself for easier colouring as it’s a little unmanageable when it’s not folded in half. Each page has a small hole at the top, this is smaller than on normal calendars and doesn’t fit a nail through it so you’ll have to very carefully hang it up with string (be careful so you don’t rip the pages) or, use a Christmas tree hanger or unbent paperclip. The cover has signature gold foil accents and is fully colourable, as always, and each calendar page has lots of tiny leaf accents and each month has a leafy lettering title. My only issue with the whole calendar is the foiling from the front cover, it’s embossed which therefore leaves debossed sections on the first image (the one I coloured) which is printed on the inside cover above the 4-month 2019 overview, it’s fine to colour if you use wet media like pens or Derwent Inktense activated with water or other watercolour media but if you use regular pencils then you’re likely to struggle because the colour doesn’t apply evenly over these sections and looks like you’ve coloured over something, a similar effect to when you do brass or bark rubbing so just be mindful of this when colouring the first image.

In terms of mental health, this calendar is ideal because not only does it give you hours of colouring fun and distraction, you can also easily display it on your wall to brighten up even the darkest of days and you’ll get satisfaction every day looking at all of your beautiful hard work. The larger image size means it’s more suitable for those of you who don’t have perfect vision or fine motor control. It’s a great project that will help motivate you with a deadline of making sure each image is ready for the first day of the following month. The pages could also be removed at the end of the year once you’re done with the calendar and could be easily framed or gifted to others to bring enjoyment for years to come. This time, there isn’t an inky treasure hunt. World of Flowers returned to Johanna’s usual high levels of intricacy and so the slightly larger size printing is a huge bonus to give you a little extra wiggle-room and ability to add blending and shading. There is a really good variety of images, needing varying levels of concentration which can be used to keep you occupied and distracted when you’re feeling anxious or low, or requiring less focus if you need a more relaxing colouring experience. Johanna’s images are really good for practising mindfulness techniques because many require a lot of focus and time to complete meaning this calendar is ideal for those of us who are mentally ill and needing to zone out. The line thickness is medium/thin throughout so there is some leeway when colouring.

I would highly recommend this for any colouring fan who needs a calendar in their life. Johanna fans won’t be disappointed with this calendar, it’s beautiful with a lovely selection of designs and great paper quality and it will brighten up the darkest of rooms and moods. It would make a fabulous gift either as it is, or fully coloured for someone and it’s not only useful for the coming year as a calendar, but for years to come when you can frame your pictures to continue the joy.

If you’d like to purchase a copy it can be found here: Amazon UK – Inky Wonderlands 2021 Coloring Wall Calendar

Full video flick-through and review

Real-Time Colour Along

The image below was coloured with Stabilo Fineliners and Stabilo Fibre-Tips Pens.

World of Flowers Postcards (Ein Paradies Voller Blumen 24 Postkarten) – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
World of Flowers Postcards (Ein Paradies Voller Blumen 24 Postkarten) is published by MVGVerlag and is from my personal collection. This book of postcards is published in German and appears to be the only edition of postcard images from World of Flowers; it contains 24 postcard images from the original book. Each postcard is printed single-sided and the back of each is printed with the same very faint grey floral design from the book with a dotted outline for a stamp containing a dragonfly image and 4 dotted address lines so that you can send them to friends, family and loved ones. The postcards are not perforated but are easily removable, almost too easily as the binding is very fragile so the book may well not stay together long-term but this does mean that you’ll be able to easily detach the postcards with no damage. The postcards are made of medium-thick, bright white card, they’re a little smaller than the Magical Jungle and Lost Ocean postcards but are produced to a much higher standard and there are no issues at all with these. The card doesn’t bleed or shadow at all with water-based pens and has a lovely tooth for pencils so you can really layer and blend and shade with ease. Alcohol markers are highly likely to bleed-through so pop a protective sheet behind your work to avoid any accidents. The postcards are a mixture of landscape (18) and portrait (6) orientated images. The vast majority of the postcards are zoomed in sections of the images rather than scaled down versions of the whole page which is a huge improvement on the previous titles’ postcards and makes for a really enjoyable colouring experience. A great selection of images has been chosen and although they’re obviously all flower-themed they’re surprisingly different and varied and don’t feel at all samey. There’s everything from centralised images to wallpaper spreads, scenes of jars and bottles to potted succulents, vases of flowers to floral patterns and even a beautiful bumblebee.

In terms of mental health, these postcards are great! As many of you know, my absolute favourite thing to colour is postcards because they’re a manageable size and give you much quicker results than regular colouring book pages. They’re also single-sided meaning that you can use almost any medium you like and they’re easily removable so that you can share your coloured images with others as gifts or to display or use for your own projects to brighten up a room or anywhere else you put them! The line thickness is thin and occasionally spindly thin throughout, you’ll need pretty good vision and fine motor control but it doesn’t need to be perfect for the majority of these images. You can block-colour the sections if you wish or spend time blending and shading or even colouring over some of the internal lines as texture so there are lots of options for different skill levels and different physical abilities. Postcards are a great project for when your symptoms are problematic or your concentration is poor because they don’t take so long and give you a good sense of achievement. The postcards are absolutely beautiful and would look lovely as they are or with heaps of colour added, the choice is yours.

I would highly recommend these postcards, they’re beautiful, a great choice of images and they’re all colourable. The card is ideal for any medium and they’re produced to a really high standard! I can’t rave about them enough, I absolutely love them and they’re one of my very favourite colouring products!

If you’d like to purchase a copy, it’s available here:
Amazon UK – Ein Paradies Voller Blumen 24 Postkarten (World of Flowers Postcards)
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Ein-Paradies-voller-Blumen-Johanna-Basford/9783747400487/?a_aid=colouringitmom

Review and full flick through

The images below were coloured with Stabilo Point 88 Fineliners and Caran d’Ache Luminance Pencils.

 

Johanna Basford 2020 Weekly Colouring Planner – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Johanna Basford 2020 Weekly Colouring Planner is published and was very kindly sent to me to review by Andrews McMeel Publishing. This planner is the perfect combination of organisation and colouring with space to write plans, appointments and notes, whilst also having weeks and weeks of colouring for you to do too. This planner is paperback with flexible pale cream card covers which have a beautiful black line-drawn flower and leaf design from World of Flowers on the front and back with a white floral design drawn on black on the insides of the covers, the front cover has rose gold foiling accents and the front and back cover have removable pale pink card strips with the information about the planner and the barcode etc printed on them. The planner is spiral-bound and measures 21.6 x 19.6cm, the covers aren’t especially sturdy so I’d be careful about travelling with it much and you’ll want to keep it safe somewhere rather than stuffing it in a bag or it’ll get damaged very quickly. This isn’t the best planner I’ve seen in terms of features and organisation, but for the combination of colouring and organising, it’s perfect and strikes a really good balance.

Unlike the previous editions of this planner, this one now only runs for 12 months, not 16 which I personally think is a very sensible change, it therefore runs from Monday the 30th of December 2019 to Sunday the 3rd of January 2021. The planner is printed double-sided and starts with a one-page overview of the year 2020 and then the planner itself starts with an image on the left of each double-page spread from one of Johanna’s seven colouring books, images from all seven (Secret Garden, Enchanted Forest, Lost Ocean, Magical Jungle, Johanna’s Christmas, Ivy and the Inky Butterfly, and World of Flowers) are included, and the week’s days and dates with writing space for each on the right (this is in the same style as normal planners with added leafy accents and leafy lettering for the month title at the top). Each week runs from Monday to Sunday with equal space to write for each day, the dates are on the right and important festivals and bank holidays etc are written in small text on the left of the page, as well as the country it’s celebrated in. After the planner pages, which make up the vast majority of the book, there is a double-page spread with sections for each month of 2021 for you to add your advance plans to. Following this is a full page of 2019 dates and a full page of 2021 dates, followed by 5 lined pages where you can write notes (all with added leaf accents) and the final page is a colouring test page where you can test out your mediums to check for bleed through.

The paper this time is pale cream rather than bright white (it is the same paper as last time and it’s less yellow than the Secret Garden book paper and more cream than the ivory paper in World of Flowers; see photo below of the different paper colours), lightly textured and medium thickness, sadly it does shadow a fair bit with water-based pens but it doesn’t bleed through; I’d strongly advise writing in pencil throughout or you’ll ruin the image on the reverse either with shadowing or indentation from ballpoint pens. Pencils work well on this paper so I’d suggest mostly colouring with pencils and using water-based pens if you don’t mind the shadowing showing through on the planner pages. A great selection of images from Johanna’s books are included with some being sections of original images at the original size and others being the whole page shrunk down to fit on the planner page so some of the illustrations are quite tricky to colour neatly but almost none look impossible as long as you use a good set of fineliners or sharp pencils. Because this is the fourth planner and the publisher has tried not to duplicate images it means that a number of my favourite images from her first few colouring books haven’t been included as they were in the first two planners, however, we’ve got new images from those as well as from the newest book, World of Flowers, and there are some lovely inclusions so there’s no disappointment to be had with this planner and it really is a great mix between organisation and colouring (two of my favourite things)!

In terms of mental health, this colouring planner is ideal. It gives you a manageable goal of colouring one page per week which could either be next week’s page so that it’s coloured ready for that week or this week’s page so you can colour as you plan. You could even colour it ahead for the whole year. The pages are a great size to practice colour schemes for your copy of the actual books, or even to try out colouring mediums on a smaller page. The spiral-binding makes it easy to access the whole page and none of the images go into the spine, it’s also ideal because once you’ve finished using the planner at the end of 2020, the pages are easy to remove for framing or gifting if you want to get more use out of your works of art. There isn’t a treasure hunt element in this planner and there are no written hints for drawing though there are plenty of spaces on a number of images to be able to add your own details or backgrounds to really make the pages your own but this of course isn’t necessary and it’ll look finished without the need to draw at all. This planner is perfect for fans of Johanna’s work and it is a beautiful way of using her illustrations. The line thickness varies a little throughout from thin to spindly thin and the intricacy and detail levels are higher than in the books because many of the images are shrunk down to fit the pages so you will most definitely need very good vision and fine motor control to get the most out of this planner if you’re wanting to colour it; you could of course leave it blank and just admire the illustrations because they really are beautiful to just look at with no need to add colour if that’s too challenging. The images aren’t arranged into any order but a few have been cleverly chosen to fit celebrations like a heart for the week of Valentine’s Day, a skull for Halloween and images from Johanna’s Christmas through December. The page size is much more manageable and less daunting to colour and this is ideal for those of you with fluctuating conditions or concentration levels because these pages are quicker to finish and likely to cause less frustration.

I would highly recommend this colouring planner to fans of Johanna’s work and to those who love to be organised. It’s a great combination of planner and colouring pages and the size and format is ideal for those who find the full-size book pages too daunting. It’s great for practising colour schemes or using new colouring mediums and it’ll be a lovely keepsake to work through from beginning to end and see how you’ve progressed over the year it runs for; you can even remove the images afterwards and frame or gift them.

If you’d like to purchase a copy it’s available below:
Amazon UK – Johanna Basford 2020 Weekly Colouring Planner
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Johanna-Basford-2020-Weekly-Colouring-Planner-Activity-Diary-Johanna-Basford/9781449497613/?a_aid=colouringitmom
Andrews McMeel – http://publishing.andrewsmcmeel.com/basford-2020-calendars

Video Flick-Through and Review

The image below was coloured with Stabilo Point 88 Fineliners.

Johanna Basford 2020 Colouring Day-to-Day Calendar in a Keepsake Box – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Johanna Basford 2020 Colouring Day-to-Day Calendar is published and was very kindly sent to me to review by Andrews McMeel Publishing. This page-a-day calendar arrives in shrink-wrapped plastic which keeps the keepsake box clean and free from damage. The keepsake box is made of thick ivory card which is covered all over (including the bottom) with a black line-drawn flower and leaf design from World of Flowers and the top and all four sides of the box have rose gold foiling accents. The box opens with a hinge-style (the lid remains attached at the top) with two pieces of black ribbon holding it open at a >90degree angle; the inside of the lid and the box are lined with black paper with white flower and foliage designs; the box is fully colourable if you wish. A black ribbon allows easy access to lift out all of the loose calendar pages which aren’t bound in any way so it’s easy to pick out which ones to colour, move them around, leave them out to dry if using wet media and so on.

The pages are the same size and format as any other page-a-day calendar, the illustration is on the left and takes up two thirds of the page and on the right at the top is a leafy-lettered title of the month and at the bottom is the date and day, above this in small text are written the important festivals and celebrations and the country they’re celebrated in; as with all others, Saturday and Sunday share a page so there are approximately 314 pages of colouring for you to complete over the year. The pages are pale cream (just like the 2019 edition) rather than bright white (they are less yellow than the Secret Garden book paper and more cream than the ivory paper in Magical Jungle and World of Flowers; see photo below of the different paper colours), thin (slightly thicker than copier paper), and lightly textured, pencils don’t build up many layers on this paper but I’m sure those of you who are more talented than me will have more luck with this and create wonderful masterpieces; water-based pens do heavily shadow and may bleed through if you’re particularly heavy-handed but the images are printed single-sided so really you can use whatever mediums you like, these pages would be ideal for testing out new mediums or trialling colour schemes.

The illustrations themselves are all taken from Johanna Basford’s seven currently published colouring books, Secret Garden, Enchanted Forest, Lost Ocean, Magical Jungle, Johanna’s Christmas, Ivy and the Inky Butterfly, and World of Flowers. I have carefully looked through all of the images and there are no new images, all are directly from the original books. Some of them are the whole page scaled down, others are sections of the page printed at the original size, others are zoomed in sections which are printed larger than the original so there is a really good mix of detailed sections, larger spaced illustrations to practice blending and shading on, and whole pages which you’ll need your finest of fineliners and sharpest of pencils to colour accurately. The lid is designed to display the current day’s page in but it will hold plenty more pages than this so you could easily place a month’s worth in there before having to move them under the proceeding days’ pages.

In terms of mental health, this page-a-day calendar is fantastic because it provides you with a manageable size of project to attempt each day, you could colour the page in a few minutes or really take your time to try out new techniques and spend much longer, it’s entirely up to you. You could colour the day’s page ahead of time or on the day itself, you could even spend the next few months colouring the whole thing ready to look at your beautiful work throughout the coming year, or even to gift to someone else (what a labour of love that would be and it would make an incredible present if you could bear to part with your work, perhaps you could start if off for them to finish?). The pages are a great size to practice colour schemes for your copies of the actual books, or even to try out colouring mediums on a smaller page. The loose pages make it easy to access the page you need without having to move the whole block around all the time and it means you don’t have to worry at all about bleed through. At the end of the year you could even cut out all of the images and create collages, small framed pictures or gifts or even add them to cards or craft projects so this is a really versatile product that goes way beyond just being a calendar! There isn’t a treasure hunt element in this calendar and there are no written hints for drawing though there are plenty of spaces on a number of images to be able to add your own details or backgrounds to really make the pages your own but this of course isn’t necessary and it’ll look finished without the need to draw at all. This page-a-day calendar is perfect for fans of Johanna’s work and it is a beautiful new way of using her illustrations. The line thickness varies a little throughout from medium to spindly thin and the intricacy and detail levels are often much higher than in the books because many of the images are shrunk down to fit the pages so you will most definitely need very good vision and fine motor control to get the most out of this calendar if you’re wanting to colour it; you could of course leave it blank and just admire the illustrations because they really are beautiful to just look at with no need to add colour if that’s too challenging. The images aren’t arranged into any order and there are no duplicates, a number of the calendar pages show parts of the same original image but these are all of different aspects of it, with varying size or depicting different areas (see images below) and this is by no means the majority of the pages, most are of entirely separate illustrations or aspects within them, they also mostly don’t appear to duplicate the images used in the 2017, 2018, or 2019 editions of this calendar so those of you who already have those won’t be disappointed by lots of duplicates. The page size is much more manageable and less daunting to colour and this is ideal for those of you with fluctuating conditions or concentration levels because these pages are much quicker to finish and likely to cause less frustration, they’re also fantastic for trying out new things without worrying about ruining a whole page in your books.

I would highly recommend this page-a-day calendar to fans of Johanna’s work and to those who love to be organised. It’s a great size and format, ideal for those who find the full-size book pages too daunting. It’s also great for practising colour schemes or using new colouring mediums and it’ll be a lovely keepsake to work through from beginning to end and see how you’ve progressed over the year it runs for; you can even remove the images afterwards and frame or gift them or even use them in craft projects and the box will make a wonderful keepsake.

If you’d like to purchase a copy of this page-a-day colouring calendar, it’s available here:
Amazon UK – Johanna Basford 2020 Colouring Day-to-Day Calendar
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Johanna-Basford-2020-Colouring-Day-Day-Calendar-Johanna-Basford/9781449497590/?a_aid=colouringitmom
Andrews McMeel – http://publishing.andrewsmcmeel.com/basford-2020-calendars

Full video flick-through and review

The image below was coloured using Stabilo Point 88 Fineliners.

World of Flowers 2020 Colouring Wall Calendar – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
World of Flowers 2020 Colouring Wall Calendar is published and was very kindly sent to me to review by Andrews McMeel Publishing. This calendar is beautiful and is the same format as the previous JB wall calendars. The calendar itself is the same size as most others at 12 inches square, making it significantly larger than Johanna’s books. It includes 13 of Johanna’s signature and most well-known designs from her seventh colouring book, World of Flowers (this calendar doesn’t include any new images), an illustration for each month of the year and one at the beginning for a 4-month overview of September to December 2019. I have included pictures of all of the calendar pages below so that you can decide if this is for you, as well as comparison photos of the book and calendar size.

The whole calendar, including the covers, is made of thick pale cream paper which is good quality (it is less yellow than the Secret Garden book paper and more cream than the new ivory paper in World of Flowers; see photo below of the different paper colours) – I thought it was going to bleed with water-based pens and watercolours but there was no bleed-through at all and only some shadowing when using my darker fineliners (in last year’s calendar) and no bleed-through or shadowing with Derwent Inktense pencils activated with water. Do bear in mind, when writing on the calendar I’d strongly advise using pencil so that you don’t get bleed through onto the next month’s image, or indentation from using a biro. The images are printed much larger in the calendar than in the book so this is a great purchase for those of you who found Johanna’s books just a little too detailed and small. You definitely can’t use alcohol markers because the images are all printed double-sided with the dates for the previous month on the back of the page which will get ruined by bleed-through if you colour ahead but would be fine if you colour month by month. The paper is quite smooth but has a little tooth and I didn’t have any issues with getting a few layers built up with my Caran d’Ache Luminance pencils in a previous edition. The waterlily image below was coloured with Derwent Inktense pencils, activated with water and I experienced no bleed-through and only minimal buckling when I used a bit too much water. The calendar is spiral-bound so you can easily fold it back on itself for easier colouring as it’s a little unmanageable when it’s not folded in half. Each page has a small hole at the top, this is smaller than on normal calendars and doesn’t fit a nail through it so you’ll have to very carefully hang it up with string (be careful so you don’t rip the pages). The cover has signature rose gold foil accents and is fully colourable, as always, and each calendar page has lots of tiny leaf accents and each month has a leafy lettering title. My only issue with the whole calendar is the foiling from the front cover, it’s embossed which therefore leaves debossed sections on the first image (the one I coloured) which is printed on the inside cover above the 4-month 2019 overview, it worked surprisingly well colouring with the Derwent Inktense pencils because once activated with water, I was able to smooth out the colour which I also think would be the case with paints or water-based pens, however, you’re likely to struggle with normal pencils because the colour doesn’t apply evenly over these sections (see before and after photos below) and looks like you’ve coloured over something, a similar effect to when you do brass or bark rubbing so just be mindful of this when colouring the first image.

In terms of mental health, this calendar is ideal because not only does it give you hours of colouring fun and distraction, you can also easily display it on your wall to brighten up even the darkest of days and you’ll get satisfaction every day looking at all of your beautiful hard work. The larger image size means it’s more suitable for those of you who don’t have perfect vision or fine motor control. It’s a great project that will help motivate you with a deadline of making sure each image is ready for the first day of the following month. The pages could also be removed at the end of the year once you’re done with the calendar and could be easily framed or gifted to others to bring enjoyment for years to come. This time, there isn’t an inky treasure hunt. World of Flowers returned to Johanna’s usual high levels of intricacy and so the slightly larger size printing is a huge bonus to give you a little extra wiggle-room and ability to add blending and shading. There is a really good variety of images, needing varying levels of concentration which can be used to keep you occupied and distracted when you’re feeling anxious or low, or requiring less focus if you need a more relaxing colouring experience. Johanna’s images are really good for practising mindfulness techniques because many require a lot of focus and time to complete meaning this calendar is ideal for those of us who are mentally ill and needing to zone out. The line thickness is medium/thin throughout so there is some leeway when colouring.

I would highly recommend this for any colouring fan who needs a calendar in their life. Johanna fans won’t be disappointed with this calendar, it’s beautiful with a lovely selection of designs and great paper quality and it will brighten up the darkest of rooms and moods. It would make a fabulous gift either as it is, or fully coloured for someone and it’s not only useful for the coming year as a calendar, but for years to come when you can frame your pictures to continue the joy.

If you’d like to purchase a copy it can be found here:
Amazon UK – World of Flowers 2020 Wall Calendar
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Johanna-Basford-World-Flowers-2020-Colouring-Square-Wall-Calendar-Johanna-Basford/9781449497606/?a_aid=colouringitmom
Andrews McMeel – http://publishing.andrewsmcmeel.com/basford-2020-calendars

Full video flick-through and review

The image below was coloured with Derwent Inktense Pencils activated with water.

Amazon UK Prime Day 2018 Colouring Deals

All of the links below are Affiliate Links which means I’ll earn a small commission if you buy through them which is at no extra cost to you but helps me to run my sites. You can read my Disclosure about this HERE. Happy Colouring!

It’s Prime Day again and for 36 hours Amazon are bringing us heaps and heaps of deals and that can mean only one thing, cheap colouring supplies! You will need to have an Amazon Prime subscription, or sign up for a 30 day free trial, in order to access the deals and this post will be updated regularly throughout the period so that all of the colouring deals are in one place. If you’ve been emailed this post then please do click through to my site to see the updated list as I’ll be adding and removing items all day today and tomorrow so you don’t miss out!

Faber-Castell 120 Albrecht Durer Watercolour Pencils in Wooden Case

Shuttle Art 120 Unique Colour Gel Pens

Up to 30% off Faber Castell products including a fabulous price on the full set of 120 Polychromos pencils.

Faber Castell 60 Pitt Pastel Pencils